Review: 2017-10-07 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME



  • Setlist, Recordings, and Attendance for: 2017-10-07 - Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME

    This past weekend has been one of favorites in my year of going to see jam shows on a regular basis. Spafford was one of the last few bands I had left on my wishlist, and finally being at these shows after buying the tickets back in June was completely surreal. I met a bunch of people that I knew from the Facebook groups (George, Brett, Kyle, Cody, Delaney, Seth, and Wes, thank you guys for making it such a fun time!), raged with the Spaffnerds’ resident insane man Kyle Burbank for two shows (He was seeing Seven in the span of eight days), and got to embark on I what I believe is my longest solo road trip.

    Pre-show:

    The morning of October 7th, I woke up on my sister’s couch in the South End of Boston. I had just raged the sold out show at The Sinclair the night before, and I was jonesing for some more Spafford as soon as I woke up. After a quick shower, I said my goodbyes and started to head up to Portland, only to get stuck in standstill traffic for close to an hour in Lawrence. Once I’d gotten through the traffic, I kept trekking towards the city, only stopping to grab lunch in the Maine-renowned Kennebunk rest stop.

    If you’ve never been to Portland before, you probably don’t know that it is one of the hardest cities in New England to find an overnight parking lot in. Kyle arrived to the city pretty much right when I did, and the two of us spent half an hour driving around the same span of four blocks over and over trying to find a decent space until Kyle found an overnight lot (which we later found out was false advertising) by the Holiday Inn. The two of us proceeded to wander around town for a good 3-4 hours, just talking about music and life and anything that came to mind while we aimlessly explored the streets around the venue.

    After watching a chunk of soundcheck through the front door, we had a very interesting conversation with a homeless man, and then met up with Cody and Delaney to grab food before the show at this place called the BRGR Bar. We chowed down on some pretty tasty burgers, headed into the venue (which required Brett to pretend to be my dad; thanks again Brett!), and positioned ourselves on the rail, preparing to have our faces melted off. What ensued was one of my favorite shows I’ve ever witnessed.

    0_1507522334202_Soundcheck PIcture.jpg

    The Show:

    Set 1:

    Memphis in the Meantime > Walls:
    As soon as they broke into Memphis, my face cracked into a big, goofy grin. My dad raised me on John Hiatt, so when I found out they played this song in Charlottesville, I was hoping they’d play it during one of my shows, and boy did they deliver! They played through Memphis pretty normally, and after Jordan was finished singing, they broke into a nice, laidback funk jam to get us in the mood for Walls. Walls wasted no time getting into things; they brought us right back into that funkiness they were playing around at the end of Memphis, and Brian started to shred like there was no tomorrow. Cam was absolutely killing it, bringing a back beat that started the dance party early. I think during almost every song I heard someone say something along the lines of “Wow, their new drummer is incredible!” They kept a good groove going before ending the song with no distinctive peak, just a good amount of group improv.

    Legend > Backdoor Funk:
    Legend was a nice cooldown after the funkfest that was Memphis > Walls, and provided a new experience for me as I’m not extremely familiar with the song. I should mention, Boston & Portland were my first two shows, so this was my first time hearing a healthy portion of these songs. During Legend, Brian started to use his whammy pedal as if it was a whammy bar, (I think I didn’t really notice him doing that in Boston due to the fact that we couldn’t see his board from where we were) and I started to notice that he kept looking at me while he used it. This moment started an amazing trend throughout the night.

    Before the Boston show, I found Brian and Jordan up the street from the venue, and I showed them that article I had written about their gear, which they both complemented and provided corrections for. For a majority of the Portland show, Brian would look right at me whenever he started to do some weird stuff with his pedals, and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend. Brian continued the train to shred city a little bit towards the end of Legend, and then they broke right into Backdoor Funk.

    Backdoor Funk was the first big jam of the night, with a very tense build-up section that broke into an amazing peak that put a smile on every face in the room. Brian was keeping the shred city train going yet again before they slowed it down a bit and he took a very thoughtful solo. He looked directly at me yet again during the middle of this solo, which was cool as all hell because he’d had his eyes closed for a majority of it. They jammed on it for a little while longer, and then decided to end the song.

    0_1507522400061_Brian and Jordan.jpg

    Funkadelic > West LA Fadeaway:
    Funkadelic was another new one to me; I thought the whole song was just a random jam, but was surprised to find out what it was from the Spafford Twitter account during setbreak. Funkadelic definitely kept the heavy jamming theme from Backdoor Funk going, keeping a steady, tense groove going the entire time. Cody had thrown some I’m Killing It stickers in between Jordan and Brian’s monitors before the show started, and Jordan was looking at them any time he didn’t have his eyes closed during Funkadelic. Towards the end of the song, Brian turned on both his digital and analog delay and looked right at me afterwards. They ended the set with West LA Fadeaway, which was the second Grateful Dead cover of my mini-run. The whole crowd sang along with Red, and Brian took one more killer solo before they went back for set break.

    Set 2:

    Lonely >:
    During set break, I was holding down our spot on the rail while everyone went and bought more drinks, and once they got back, I went to go grab a water and use the bathroom real quick. I introduced myself to Jordan’s girlfriend Lizzie on the way to the bathroom (she’d shared a super useful picture of Jordan’s board while I was trying to figure it out, thanks Lizzie!), and had to run back to the front of the stage once I realized they had started playing.

    Lonely was a very good start to the second set, with the highlight being the super quiet (low volume) jam, which caused Brett to yell “Jordan, where are you?!” when Jordan started to play particularly soft. This song had the second big peak of the night, with a crazy build-up section leading up to it. Little did we know, this was getting us ready for what was about to happen.

    Weasel > Palisades > Weasel:
    This is the section of the show where they started to get down and dirty. I have never experienced a cooler jam vehicle than this Weasel > Palisades > Weasel. Up until last night, I’ve also never had the urge to headbang at a jam show, but Weasel was going so hard it was impossible not to. Almost immediately they went into a weird electronic dark jam. Red was using one of his synths to create these long flowy pads, while Jordan started to utilize some of the bass synth available on his pedal board. In my notes I wrote “this tension could be cut by a knife,” which was 100% true; they kept building and building for what felt like an eternity, and we all started to get anxious. During this whole jam, the Lighting Director didn’t have any lights on the guys, just using some smaller ones for effect, and right before the peak I looked over at Red in the darkness and caught him smirking at me. The peak cause more headbanging to ensue, and then they went right from the peak to a slower, ambient jam that was being used to go into Palisades.

    Palisades felt much shorter than both parts of Weasel, but it might’ve been my favorite part of this big ol’ jam sandwich. It felt like they were taking us to a fantasy land through the music, and in this fantasy land we were having a huge dance party. Red was smiling for the entire jam at the end of Palisades, which was brought up into what felt like a rather short peak, and then they went back into another dark Weasel jam. They built up another extremely tense jam section, and finally released it with another headbanging peak that glued a smile on my face for the rest of my night. After they had ended the crowd was so impressed they were screaming for more, and all four guys on stage looked so happy about what had just happened. It was a truly special moment!

    All In:
    All In started to bring some of the funky jamming from the first set back into mix, and began with everyone singing along which caused Red to continue cheesing. The jam in All In got just dark as Weasel > Palisades > Weasel, and really combined the funk of the first set and the headbanging that took place in the previous song. During the darker section Brian turned on his digital delay and got weird with some pick scratches that were super spacey, and then they brought it into this weird section of a funk jam into a heavy jam into an almost ambient jam in the span of five minutes. During the ambient jam Red took a killer Hammond solo, and Jordan was bringing back that bass synth sound he was messing around with earlier in the set. They brought us up to one more super tense jam section before bringing it to yet another head banging peak that literally caused Red to jump out of his seat.

    Beautiful Day:
    There is really not much for me to say about this song other than the fact that it’s one of my favorites, so I was very glad to end out my weekend on this song. It really hit me in the feels last night, because it kind of made me reflect on the two Beautiful Days I’d had with all of my new friends this weekend. The lyric “I know that days like these come around only once in awhile” hit me especially hard because I knew this euphoric feeling I’d had all weekend would be coming to a close soon. It was an amazing way to end the second set.

    Encore:

    America > The Reprise:
    I didn’t write too many notes about this section, because it was so much fun! More headbanging took place in this one, and they did another weird ambient jam in the middle of America where Red was going at it on his synth. They wasted no time jamming right into The Reprise, which Kyle was very happy they played because he had only heard it once in the five shows he’d seen already. It was an extremely fun encore, and a great way to end a truly mind blowing show.

    0_1507522439427_PME Setlist.jpg

    Post-show:
    Once the show was over, Kyle, Cody and I stayed by the stage, gunning for one of the setlists. Kyle had introduced me to their guitar/bass/keys/drum tech, Bob, the previous night in Cambridge, so he gave one to each of us, but Cody didn’t manage to grab one. We all said our goodbyes to Brett, and the security guards were starting to usher everybody out, so our whole group went out to the sidewalk to continue our conversation. Around midnight, I said goodbye to Cody and Delaney (pretty reluctantly, because they were super fun to hang with all night), and Kyle and I started to head back towards our parking garage.

    Our parking garage just so happened to be the street over from where the band had parked their bus, and while we were walking down the sidewalk, we ran right into Jordan and Lizzie who were outside the venue smoking. Jordan greeted Kyle and I with “Ah, my two favorites!” and a huge smile on his face, which might have been the coolest thing to happen to me all weekend. We hung out with them for a good 10 minutes just talking about the show and how our runs had been going, and Brian walked through at one point FaceTiming his wife and recognized me as the dude that was super into their gear. Jordan mentioned that he thought of me a couple times when turned on his Bass Metaphors pedal, because we’d had a conversation about how weird it was the night before, and he said he’d try to keep me updated on his board so I could keep the Spaffnerds article up to date.

    We thanked Jordan for the amazing show, said goodnight to them, and kept venturing back to the garage that started our whole adventure off. After a little more conversing, Kyle and I said our final goodbyes, heading our separate ways. This weekend was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time. Getting to meet some of my musical heroes and have them already start to recognize me, raging with a bunch of S’nerds that I’ve been wanting to meet for a while, and adventuring around coastal New England. I wish this weekend had never ended, but I’m extremely grateful it happened.


  • $$$

    You sure that was me calling for Jordan? I remember summoning Red’s mystical Keys, but I think somebody else yelled for Jordan. Disclaimer: I was partying, so anything is possible...lol


  • $$$

    Excellent review of another amazing night! Great to share the rail with you fine folks! Thanks for the gear reviews as well = bonus!



  • @603Brett said in Review: 2017-10-07 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME:

    You sure that was me calling for Jordan? I remember summoning Red’s mystical Keys, but I think somebody else yelled for Jordan. Disclaimer: I was partying, so anything is possible...lol

    Hahaha it could have very well been Wes or someone else, but I’m like 80% sure it was you. I feel like I remember immediately turning around after whoever said that said that, and you kind of gave me a knowing glance.



  • Nice review. Sounds fun. Loving the nugs.net. I think this is the best sounding mix I've heard yet this tour. Red is finally coming to the front and I was feeling his Hammond in my chest this morning on the commute.


  • $$$

    @jaredsusername lol...could have been. I try to keep it down, but sometimes my excitement manifests itself verbally. Always in the hopes to enhance, not hinder. 😊


  • A

    @jaredsusername thanks for the awesome review, i totally felt like I was along for the ride. Your deep immersions in the songs and your descriptions of their technical and emotional designs truly deepen and expand my appreciation of these songs i love. thank you for being such a Nerd! Also, I have to say I loved your story of the eye contact with band members. At Brooklyn Bowl i was a few heads back, front and center, dancing like a maniac, and feeling very connected to the songs as wholes at times and to individual instruments at other times. there were a few times where i felt what i was feeling and responding to from Cam or Red or Jordan or Brian was noticed by them. I think that is what is truly making this experience so amazing right now... there is very little "scrim" between us and the players on the stage. we are connecting. holy shit, we are connecting!!!



  • @603Brett said in Review: 2017-10-07 - Port City Music Hall - Portland, ME:

    @jaredsusername lol...could have been. I try to keep it down, but sometimes my excitement manifests itself verbally. Always in the hopes to enhance, not hinder. 😊

    Brett I think you were actually yelling for George because Cam kicked in with the untz!


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    @Cody I definitely wish my homie George could have been there for that. But he was there in spirit as soon as that Alesis got fired up!



  • Oh man, the Legend jam is so sick. Brian sounds like a Jazz player.


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    @Johnny-Love
    That was exactly how I felt at this show!! I’d never seen them, and holy shit was it a crazy symbiotic transcendent experience!! I even caught the band after the show and gave them hugs and they were so great! As someone who has traditionally committed most resources to seeing Phish, this kind of stuff is unheard of these days! To me it felt like I imagine the late 80s Hunt’s/Nectar’s shows felt like to those early phans. These guys get it.


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